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Third Graders Reenact 1939 Civil Rights Protest

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History buffs in Alexandria like to call the 1939 Library Sit-in "the most famous civil rights protest you've never heard of."

But thanks to a history lesson delivered by third graders from Samuel W. Tucker Elementary all of that is starting to change.

The students performed in front of a standing room only crowd at the Barrett Branch Library, where the protest occurred 70 years ago.

The crowd included relatives of the five African-American men jailed that day in 1939. The charges against those men were eventually dropped -- and the episode helped lead to the construction of a library for blacks.

Also watching this morning was 91-year old Ferdinand T. Day, former chair of Alexandria's Board of Education and the first African-American public school board chair in the state.

He grew up with all five men who took part in the 1939 sit-in, as well as the man who organized the protest, Samuel W. Tucker.

Day says the performance was a reminder that Alexandria wasn't always as friendly as it is now.

"A lot of people come to my hometown and think that it was like this years ago, but they are far wrong," Day says. "It was a typical Southern port town, with all the problems of the deep South."

Day says watching black and white 8-year-olds come together to share what they've learned makes him proud of what his hometown has become.

It's a feeling that may not have been possible without five men who walked through the library doors in 1939.

Jonathan Wilson reports...

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